Farinelli (1994) Poster


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Good yarn, great music, rotten history
alsihler23 June 2003
Farinelli is not nearly as awful as I feared it would be. It's similar in many ways to Amadeus. Like Amadeus, it has glorious music beautifully performed. Like Amadeus, it tells a good (if melodramatic) story. Like Amadeus, it has a marvelous period feel. Like Amadeus, the characters in this story have the names and occupations of real people, but their portrayal on the screen is not even caricature: a caricature necessarily starts with something recognizeable.

Farinelli was famous in history not merely for a phenomenal voice and outstanding musicianship and musical connoisseurship, but for poise, dignity, and perfect-pitch judgement of human character; he is portrayed throughout as a hysteric. Handel is shown as a pompous, bullying nervous wreck verging on the psychotic, quite at variance with all reliable accounts of his humor, sturdiness, practicality, and reputation for scrupulous probity toward his musicians and singers.

Handel could not have said, to Farinelli, during the latter's first sensational season with the Opera of the Nobility, that he would never write another opera, and not just because Handel was no faux-Freudian opera queen: Lady History inconveniently discloses that after that 1733-34 season Handel composed and presented Ariodante, Alcina, Atalanta, Giustino, Arminio, Berenice, Faramondo, Serse, and Imeneo; his last opera, Deidamia, went unperformed, but several in that list were significant successes, and some were revived more than once.

The two rival opera companies in London went down the drain more or less simultaneously, notwithstanding the enormous draw of Farinelli for the Nobility company, and notwithstanding the high quality of the music of its principal composers (Porpora, Hasse, undervalued today) and the stupendous quality of Handel's music (also undervalued); rather, the people with the money to afford the (by our standards) enormous ticket prices had simply lost interest.

One commentator here is skeptical about many "period" details. And rightly: for starters, that's not the way boys were castrated, but you don't need to know the truth. Relax, just enjoy the music and the costumes and the actors chewing the scenery.
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Wonderful movie but has many inaccuracies
peter0725 June 2002
I know I'm being sort of anal by mentioning this, but this movie, as beautiful and enchanting as it is, has many inaccuracies.

Farinelli, in addition to his handsome features and heavenly voice, was also a very humble person and hardly displayed the raucous behavior of a "rock star" as depicted in the film.

Second, the singer was known as disinterested in sex, thus I have no idea why the sex scenes in the film were included. True, there WERE castrati who did engage in pleasures of the flesh, but Farinelli was NOT one of them, or at least there are no historical records suggesting so.

All that aside, this movie was a lavishly done production and a must-see!
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Castrated story but enjoyable
Angeneer13 June 2001
I think some long periods of Farinelli's life are left out. The film is too focused on his love life, making it definitely a female movie. There were a lot of other aspects to explore. We also get to see the obligatory scenes of audiences being mesmerized by opera, as if they were some island natives and not opera house regulars. Nevertheless, being a high budget movie, it has great costumes and beautiful scenery. Most of all you get the chance to explore the divine music of Haendel.
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Overripe History and Histrionics
harry-761 June 2001
Famed 18th century (castrato) soprano Ferinelli invites a serious biographical study. This 17-18th c. period was, until recent times, skirted over by musicologists and music history teachers.

The result of this omission has been an unsuspecting awareness of the extent to which male performers dominated all forms of period theater, including opera, oratorio, cantata, ballet, and stage plays. "Ferinneli" had an opportunity to provide substantive information in filling this void.

Unfortunately, what resulted is just another Ken Russell-type production (a la "The Music Lovers," "Lisztomania," "Mahler," etc.). In fact, were Andre Corbiau's name not credited as director of "Ferinelli," one would swear this was a Russell composer biopic.

All Russell trademarks are there: excessive closeups of actors in dramatic distress, swirling activity to cover up script weaknesses, and disjointed highlights instead of sequence continuity.

Director-coscriptor Corbiau has Stefano Dionisi as Ferinneli forever falling down and collapsing both on and offstage for no apparent reason, and using the old device of having him hesitate to sing on cue before a full house to superficially create suspense and anxiety.

In fact, Corbiau, like Russell, is more intent on affecting than expressing: manipulating the viewer than sincerely sharing. As a result, one is held a arm's length of emotional participation throughout.

While no contemporary production can create a truly authentic period setting, there are questions which arise here: George Frederick Handel, one of the world's most prolific and fine composers, is reduced to that of a mere rival theatrical impressario; and Farinelli is forever acting oddly--claiming vocal loss, serious indisposition, and tripping out on opium. Indeed, at times this seems more like a baroque version of sex-drugs-and-rock-'n'roll.

On the brighter side, the staging of the operatic scenes are wonderfully on-target, having been obviously well-researched and meticulously designed. The combination real-and-computer-created vocal work is fascinating in its etherial timbre and in its negotiation of Handelean melismas, embellishments and assorted ornamentation. Likewise, the baroque pit orchestra and period opera house decor is strikingly detailed.

What a pity "Farinelli" fails in its main opportunity: to convey a simple, heart-felt story of one of history's most celebrated singers.
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The Greatest Singer Of All Time: A Haunting Romantic Film
FloatingOpera77 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Director Gerard Corbiau's Farinelli won Best Picture of 1995. The foreign film, mixed Italian and French, retells the story of the famous and greatest castrato singer Carlo Broschi. The film is exotic, intensely emotional and loaded with beautiful music of the Baroque Era (1600-1750). With all the good things about this movie, comes some things that might be rather disturbing or inappropriate for a younger audience. This is assuredly an adult film. There are two explicit sex scenes at the beginning and end of the film. This is a movie for an adult who is interested in the period, in the life of the castrati and in opera at this time. The opening introduces Carlo Broschi as a little boy singing in the church choir. Another young lad has been castrated to preserve his voice and is so mortified he leaps to his death. Eventually Carlo's brother Riccardo is obligated to do the same to his brother. We don't learn until later in the film that it was Riccardo and not Carlos' brother that conducted the castration. Here, Farinelli is usually quite ill and is forced to take opium as medicine. Farinelli does not seem to think highly of his brother's operas, which are written exclusively for his voice. Instead, he believes the greatest composer of this time is George Frederic Handel, played convincingly by Jerome Krabbe. In a dinner party, in which the Nobles insult Handel, Farinelli is outraged and declares that Handel will long be remembered and not the Nobles and their operas. This ends up being true since Handel is considered one of the greatest composers of this period together with Johann Sebastian Bach. The movie has some inaccuracies and are not historically true. Naturally, this being a costume drama, there are some elements which were entirely fictional created for the sake of sensationalism. Although it is true Riccardo Broschi did compose operas for his brother Farinelli, there is no real evidence they "shared" the women they bedded. In the movie, a Countess is so enamored with Farinelli that she jumps into bed with him only to discover he's castrated. Thus, Riccardo plants the seed and Farinelli only lures the women into bed and seduces them. This is fabricated material to "sex up" the movie. In real life, Farinelli I'm inclined to believe was chaste. He sung many times for religious services and was a devout Catholic. He may not have been at all bitter for his castration since he lived like a king all his life, surrounded in luxury. He was well acquainted with European royalty, all of Europe loved him and he died after years of singing in the chambers of King Phillip of Spain. The rivalry between the Nobles Theatre Opera and Handel's opera company is true. In fact, it remains the only true thing about this movie. The English in London disliked the German foreigner Handel and his prominence in London. He was so beloved that even King George and Queen Anne protected him. The Nobles schemed endlessly to get rid of Handel. The portrayal of Handel as a musical genius, a man of stubborn, perfectionist character is all true. I think the most moving scenes are those with Handel, such as the scene in which Farinelli is overhearing him play the organ in the church and is moved by the music and the scene of Farinelli singing "Lascio Chio Pianga" from Rinaldo which ultimately moves Handel to tears. All the scenes of opera and Farinelli singing in his majestic costumes in this movie are stunningly beautiful. Finally, this movie's soundtrack is incredible. It contains the combined voices of tenor Derek Rogin and soprano Ewa Mallas as the singing voice of Farinelli. The arias sung here are taken from Riccardo Broschi's operas Idaspe and Artaserse and from Handel's Julius Caesar and Rinaldo. A superb film and a must see for fans of Baroque opera.
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A truly excellent historical reconstruction, and a brilliant film!
srpremontre1 April 2005
This remarkable film remains one of my favourites. The story line at first left me wondering why the director had chosen to make the film in the first place. Luscious scenery, beautiful costumes, sets, extravagant, but historically accurate stagings for the opera scenes, great language and dialogue - but why make a film about an all but forgotten singer from almost three centuries ago? Nothing in the film seemed to give a clue as to why anyone would go to all the bother of reconstructing a marvelous voice so painstakingly, and choose one of the great performers of our time to oversee the performances of the music. Repeated viewings did not seem to throw any light on the vexing question that, despite all the lushness and splendour I was still missing some point to the whole exercise. It was only on the third or fourth viewing that I noticed in the opening credits a small remark - in French - "to the memory of my daughter . . "name"". Suddenly the whole thing made sense. This marvelous and true story of the castrato is, perhaps, the directors attempt to describe his impotence in the face of the loss of his beloved child. Viewed in this light the ending of the film and the sequences in London between Farinelli and Benedict finally begin to have a poignancy and a sadness that is truly stunningly and sensitively achieved whilst adding to the story line. I love this film and cannot possibly recommend it enough. Any lover of Early Music should revel in it, but it has been lifted out of the ordinary and into the universal and sublime by that one small realization. Superlatives cannot do it justice.
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no particularly engaging
MartinHafer5 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This was an extremely pretty, but ultimately pretty unengaging film. The sets are lovely and the singing, for those who like this kind of music, is great but ultimately the story failed to engage me on anything but a superficial level. The based on truth story just doesn't have enough going on to merit a movie. Yes, Farinelli has no testicles and can't ultimately satisfy his lovers. In steps his brother to "finish the job". About the only interesting tidbit I gathered was that you ultimately find out this brother is the one who actually arranged to turn Farinelli into a castrato. Yuck. I get that. So what is next? Unfortunately, not much.
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Fascinating World of Castrati Overshadowed by Brotherly Co-Dependency
EUyeshima4 March 2006
Something seems strangely amiss with what could have been a fascinating historical glimpse into the world of the castrati (castrated male opera singers) in 18th-century Europe. This 1994 Belgian film is an opulent production full of stunning costumes and set decorations, but director Gerard Corbiau is far more focused on the co-dependency between two real-life brothers, Carlo Broschi, the swoon-worthy castrato known to the world as Farinelli, and his marginally talented composer brother Riccardo. Although there are glimpses of the castration that occurred when Carlo was ten, the narrative deals very little with the psychological anguish of this act, instead showing extravagantly vainglorious scenes of Farinelli's impact on audiences at the time. It's as if the story structure of the Baroque operas written at that time took over the sensibility of the screenplay and trivialized the human complexities into exaggerated melodrama.

Despite a valiant effort by Stefano Dionisi in the title role, Farinelli is portrayed as a moody, self-centered egotist rather than a misunderstood artist. Compounding the problem is the fact that his masculine speaking voice is at odds with his ethereal singing voice (obviously a creative decision so as not to alienate the general audience from the character's plight). Moreover, the computerized melding of countertenor Derek Lee Ragin and soprano Ewa Mallas Godlewska into Farinelli's voice simply does not sync up well with Dionisi's lip and throat movements. In other words, you simply don't believe it's Dionisi's voice coming out of him. When the film finally takes flight in the last third of the film, it's because the focus has shifted to the competitive, intense relationship between Farinelli and the great composer of the age, Handel. Jeroen Krabbe - familiar to American audiences for his nasty turn as Barbra Streisand's condescending husband in "The Prince of Tides" - plays Handel with such passionate fury that I wish the film was more about his character. This sequence climaxes with the film's musical highlight, a trio of wonderful, truly classic arias from Handel's "Rinaldo".

Unfortunately, the remaining musical performances are not nearly as absorbing and rather repetitive. The film again flails toward the end when we are given a rather silly scene involving a solar eclipse and gratuitous nudity with a ménage a trois among Farinelli, Riccardo and Alexandra, the woman who is - quite literally - between them. The remaining performances are fine with Enrico LoVerso conveying his Salieri-like inferiority with appropriate fervor, Elsa Zylberstein beguiling as Alexandra and Caroline Cellier doing a fine Jeanne Moreau impersonation as the jaded Margareth Hunter. Overall it's still a relatively disappointing movie saved by Handel's musical genius. Except for a few trailers, there are no extras with the DVD. For those interested in the world of the castrati in more penetrating detail, I suggest reading Anne Rice's 1982 novel, "Cry to Heaven", and the "Rinaldo" arias are better served by countertenor David Daniels and mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli on their 2002 cast recording conducted by Christopher Hogwood.
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Enchanting to the senses, but short on content...
Anonymous-218 November 1999
'Farinelli' is a film well worth seeing for its memorable visual imagery and its unique soundtrack. Mid-film scenes set against the decadence of 17th-century European court life make for charming costumes and sets. Contrasting visuals of rural Italy provide their own pastoral allure that is no less charming. Moreover, the film rises admirably to the daunting technical and artistic task of reproducing the tone of a castrato voice, considering that the musical world has not seen or heard a castrato singer for more than a century.

'Ah,' you say, 'sounds gorgeous...but what's it about?' Enter Carlo and Riccardo Broschi, Italian brothers who share musical aspirations: Riccardo composes, and Carlo sings what he writes. Carlo is a gifted castrato, but Riccardo is a mediocre composer at best. In time, Carlo becomes the renowned Farinelli while Riccardo struggles with his lack of talent/recognition as well as the troublesome fact that Carlo is his meal ticket.

The simple story line masks rich potential (think 'Amadeus'), but 'Farinelli' is hampered by shallow character development and its inexplicable tendency to substitute all-too-frequent sex scenes for emotional power. Without the full realization of the characters or the ramifications of the plot, the film struggles to keep a viewer engaged, at least in my own case. The beautiful pageantry of 'Farinelli' fails to compensate for its hollow dramatic core.

In short? Not bad, but a better music movie is 'Amadeus'(among others), and a better movie with beautiful Italian visuals is 'A Room With A View' (among others).
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For those who enjoy Ken Russell
emuir-125 December 2008
The sets and costumes are magnificent and give a 21st century viewer a glimpse of what life must have been like for the fortunate wealthy in the days of the baroque composers, but the story is confusing and there was far too much gratuitous sex. It was as if the filmmakers did not think that the beautiful music and sumptuous settings could carry the film. I don't know if something was lost in the subtitling, or whether too much film was left on he cutting room floor, but I was baffled by a number of the characters. Who was Benjamin and why did he wear a body brace? Who were Alexandra and Margareth? The characters simply seemed to be a device to move the story along to the bizarre and unnecessary sex scenes.

My biggest problem was with the poor lip synching, which was so obvious that it distracted and spoiled the flow of the film. It was not just that the facial mannerisms did not match the voice, but that the volume actually dropped to the extent that the voice seemed to be coming from off stage. Nowhere was this worse than the trumpet scene at the beginning. The castrati had very powerful voices, but Farinelli's voice sounds like a far-off squeak. Synching has been done very successfully in the past, most notably by Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady and Ava Gardner is Show Boat, and most famously by Edmund Purdom in the Student Prince, so it should not be beyond the capability of film makers 40 or more years later. I felt that the film would have been more convincing if Farinelli had been played by a soprano doing her own singing, and had concentrated more on the relationship with the brother who was riding on Farinelli's coat tails. How often have we seen a partnership where one half is nothing without the other, and knows it.

As for the comparison with the decadent rock star life style, that is how the castrati stars allegedly lived in the hedonistic 18th-century. I am not sure either that the castrati strutted around the stage like drag queens as they were supposed to be playing the women's parts as women. Given Ken Russell’s record of appallingly bad taste portrayals of musicians, it is surprising that he never attempted this one. It was right up his street.

Opera lovers would be better served by listening to recordings of Handels operas.
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UK-314 January 1999
This film was great. Even if the singing looked a little fake at times, and there was a bit too much sex than was really necessary, but a great film, with beautiful music. I thought more emphasis would have been put upon the anguish and degradation Farinelli might have felt, and more stress on the love/hate relationship the public had with the castrati, but definitely a film worth seeing.
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Worth seeing and listening to, but somewhat thin story.
geir-ole27 May 2000
Visually and sound-wise this is a beautiful film that can be recommended. The flash-backs when Ricardo looks back on childhood are good, showing the tight links between the two brothers. But, one is waiting through the whole film for the continuation of the early scene where Carlo (Farinelli) does not try to prevent the soldiers from taking Ricardo away by force. There is too much focus on the brothers' conquests and maybe too little on the singing. But the songs that we hear are beautiful and when one knows the amount of work that has been put into the reconstruction of Farinelli's unique voice (covering one octave more than any singer alive today) one should probably not complain.
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Definitely worth seeing, but still trashy and inaccurate
periola1230 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Farinelli is an interesting film, definitely worth seeing. There is a strange fascination with the idea of the castrato, so I found myself watching the movie to learn more about castrati. However, the film romanticized Farinelli like a rock star or something. Some scenes were pretty damn embarrassing. But before I go into all that, here's a grossly brief spiel of "castrato history", drawn from M401 music history class at IU and from various websites found from Google, and NOT FROM THE FILM, in order to give some background info: During the 18th century in Rome and some other Italian areas, women were not permitted to sing in church. For this reason, boys between the ages of 7-9 who showed potential as a singer were castrated to preserve their unbroken voice, with their permission. Although castrati were common throughout Italy, the procedure was illegal even then. Opera was the most popular and extravagant genre of music at this time, and castrati were often cast as the lead male role. Audiences found the unnatural voice of the castrati quite hypnotic, combining the range of a woman with the strength and power of a man. Carlo Broschi, called Farinelli, remains the highest esteemed of the castrati. "Tales" include his 3-octave-plus range, and of numerous occasions at the opera house where he would compete with a trumpeter on who could hold a note longer, with Farinelli winning. Physically, castrati were described to be abnormally tall, with a pear-shaped torso (wide hipped). Their voices sounded like a woman's. They had no facial hair, and no male-pattern baldness. And of course, most (though not all) were celibate. Farinelli was like most, I'm pretty sure (don't quote me on that).

Now, the film is a bit different from all this. In the film, Farinelli is an Italian Tom Cruise look-alike with a thin waist (like any thin sexy man). He's constantly having sex, sharing his fans with his leech brother. And, I'm no singer, but Mr. Stefano Dionisi did a pretty poor lip-sync job. His posture suggested no diaphragmatic support. Also, he made goofy facial expressions out of place in opera, and he also bared his teeth excessively. The diction and tone that his face suggested would have sounded really bad, for opera standards. Of course, I'm not expecting a MET performance from an actor, but his impersonation of operatic singing looked almost mocking. Also, the whole blending of male and female voice (see goofs above) lacked power. They should have just used a counter-tenor.

Also, I am not aware of the relationship between Farinelli and his brother Riccardo, but I'm pretty sure it was not as dysfunctional and psychotic as it was made out to be. And there is no way that Farinelli's castration was such a big deal and an injustice to Farinelli. I'm sure he wanted to be castrated just like everyone else.

The portrayal of Handel is a scream. I always thought Handel was a cosmopolitain man, who served the royalty of England and saw far more success than Bach. The movie portrays him as such, granted, but I didn't think he was a bastard! Maybe he was, I don't know, but the relationship and rivalry between Farinelli and Handel, I don't think that ever occurred. First off, Farinelli never performed any of Handel's operas. I doubt he stole his opera score too.

Despite the historical inaccuracies, I found the portrayal of 18th century opera society to be really interesting. Typically, American audiences are used to historical movies with British actors, regardless of the ethnicity portrayed. We are used to seeing British people play Frenchmen, Italianmen. However, in this film, the French are played by Frenchmen, and so on. As a result, there seems to be a more realistic portrayal of European society. Also I love how the opera is just this excuse to socialize. It was not like it is today. In this sense, the film was more historically correct.

All in all, I recommend seeing the film. Do a google search for pictures of Farinelli, if you're interested.
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Very well done and worth watching
lthseldy13 April 2001
This movie is about Farinelli, one of the famous Castro Singers during the 18th century. He had the voice of an angel when he was a boy and since his family was very poor, an operation of castration was done to him in order to preserve his voice and help his family out in poverty. There were some strange parts during this film such as when he got older he and his brother Riccardo traveled together and never left each other. His brother was there during Farinelli's lovemaking in order to complete and finish the task that his brother could not do since he had been castrated. And then there was the white horses that Farinelli saw every time danger was present or near. This warning was not clearly explained in the film. The acting was very good. I enjoyed the variation of languages of French and Italian with a little bit of English thrown in. The costumes were excilent and the way the actors portrayed the characters during that past time period were done good. One makes you feel sorry for Farinelli because of what he did lack and also makes you feel for him because everybody would make a specticle of him because of his castration and the fact that he could not complete the task of lovemaking (personally..... I do not think that he really needed that, he was good being his own person anyway). Farinelli's popularity had worn down during the middle of his career due to his excessive use of opium in which his brother provided for him in order for him to sleep and get rid of any pain or stress. During the end of the movie we find that it is Riccardo that turned his little brother in because of his ability to sing and thus help his poor familiy. Not much is mentioned of his familiy but in the beginnig of the movie we do know that his family was poor and Farinelli offered himself as well as his voice because his voice was all that he did have in order to stay alive. This movie was a good film and I give it about a 7. There were several parts in the film that were not clearly explained and that was the only flaw.
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Very expensive crap !
filmkenner-112 January 2004
Based on the true story of Carlo Broschi, Farinelli is an opera singer from Europe, hailed for the beauty of his voice and his fine musicianship. Unfortunately for the people who love opera music, this film is a real disappointment. Since it is not about music, but about the costumes, the setting and the boring and pointless relationship between the two brothers, proving to each other they are not `gay'. Compared to Amadeus, this film is worse than a B-movie. It's a B-minor movie.
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An amazing introduction to something unknown to me, Castrati singers.
inhisgrace007200531 May 2004
Though unable to comment on Ferinelli's historical accuracy in this film, I was intrigued by the beautiful singing voice. Directly after viewing this movie on television on went my computer to research why Ferinelli's voice sounded so feminine. The history my eyes devoured regarding his life astounded me. How sad that not many 'castrati's' did not survive the castration. Additionally, I realized the movie is indeed not very factual and agree that the sexual content was unnecessary. Nonetheless, it is an enchanting movie despite the fiction entwined with some fact. Very soon I will purchase the soundtrack and hear what other IMDb users are raving about. I look forward to being lost in, mesmerized, and hypnotized by the operatic voice (voices). This film is a must see for anyone in love with opera, and the best music ever to first entertain the human ear.
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Nicely filmed
bubblegumyums652 May 2004
I was quite intrigued by the scenery in the film. I also like the acting. The actors in the film were perfectly chosen. They fit right into their characters. One thing I didn't like about the movie was that whole brotherly thing in the movie. They kept saying that they had a pact or something like that to the women. And the opera was nice to a point, but then I just kept forwarding. It was the same thing over and over again, but to different tunes. If you like operas and, Italian and French actors, this movie is worth seeing. I give it an 8.5 out of 10.
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Music for the castrated generation
pianys20 November 2003
The first time I watched this film the subtitles didn´t work, but I was

still hooked on its beauty and emotion. After a proper viewing I

went straight out and bought the soundtrack - and I´m totally not

into opera. The scene where Farinelli sings Händel sent such

huge shivers down my spine and tears down my face.

The story itself may not be entirely historically correct (when was

ever filmmaking all about facts and figures?), but the tale about

Farinelli is captivating to say the least. The castrato singers were

both worshipped and shunned by society, loved for their heavenly

voices and scorned for their lost manhood.

Michael Jackson is the obvious modern day comparison, but I´d

say that´s not fair to Farinelli. Check out this film, enjoy the music,

and learn that extreme celebrity is not a new thing!
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A wonderful rendition of 18th century European art life
FilmCriticLalitRao19 March 2003
Farinelli is a wonderful rendition of 18th century European art life where sounds of music spelled passions in the hearts of all music lovers. Farinelli's voice is a justification of his existence. The film remains faithful to ancient times. Broschi brothers shared everything equally. It is this tendency which has helped them to remain strong and intact. The film's brilliance is a result of mellifluous music, accurate set design, costumes etc all of which lend it an air of perfectionism. It is unusual that Gérard Corbiau has chosen this film after "L'année de l'éveil" although his new film "Le Roi Danse" is also believed to be in the same vein. Whatever might be the truth, it can rightly be said that the historical inaccuracies have been subdued by elaborate set design and costumes. After the critically acclaimed "Le Maître de Musique" Corbiau has sensibly dealt with music. He has proved that inspiration cannot be replaced with virtuosity. One must try to find real emotions in music.
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" In order to preserve your voice, I've had to destroy your offspring "
thinker169125 June 2012
In the 18th century, long before modern music could be canned for mass consumption, there existed a life-style which could only be sculpted from the unfortunate lives of prepubescent boys of Europe. This movie called " Farinelli " is the finest example of what was once deemed a most unique form of Opera. The story is based on the true story of two brothers who's father fettered them to a life of music and composition. Stefano Dionisi plays Carlo Broschi, AKA as Farinelli and his brother Riccardo Broschi (Enrico Lo Verso). Together they travel far and wide seeking not only an Opera loving audience, but also a rich patron who could afford their talent. The time of our story is set during the Baroque heyday of Frideric Handel (Jeroen Krabbe) who's great Classical music became the epitome of royalty and high society alike. The elder Broschi believes he did the right thing by suffering his younger brother to the excruciating pain of being castrated. However, he is then haunted by the fact his tortured brother has nightmares from the incident. Travel as the two boys do throughout the film, the story becomes more a testament of conscience, than one dealing with the audience appreciation of the day. Still, for Opera lovers or for those who enjoy good operatic theater, this movie delivers a cornucopia of both, with great period costumes and superior acting. Indeed, Stefano Dionisi and Jeroen Krabbé are superb as their lives play against each another. ****
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Kirpianuscus4 July 2017
for music, atmosphere and costumes. for few scenes. as introduction to the spirit of a period. and for the remind of the traits of Baroque. one of films who remains a must see for the aesthetic virtues. maybe, in same measure, for the good intentions. because, except the case of "castratti", it is only a story of a music star. with same sins and virtues and half truths. with the same impressive clash between art and near reality. showing the same vulnerability of a selfish hero of scene. so, a beautiful film. but not more.
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Different, disturbing, historically inaccurate, but visually stunning
l-f-s11 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Be prepared for something different, disturbing, and with a history lesson that is completely inaccurate. In fact, it is a blatantly convoluted tale that looks more like a Cinderella story than actual accounts of history. Director Gerard Corbiau's Farinelli is 'all that' but it also is visually stunning and represents castrati singing with richness and clarity. Farinelli is the artistic name of castrato (a male castrated at a young age) Carlo Broschi (Stefano Dionisi), a handsome young choir boy who was accidentally castrated at the age of 10 purportedly due to a riding accident. Ill and under the influence of powerful drugs (opium) at the time, Carlo has no recollection of his unfortunate accident. His brother Riccardo (Enrico Lo Verso), seven years his senior, tells him repeatedly the story of how he was riding a beautiful white horse from which he was thrown, causing an injury that led to his castration. Throughout his life, Carlo has a recurring nightmare about riding the white horse but in his dream he never falls off. The conflict between Carlo's dreams and Riccardo's stories hints at the horrible secret between the brothers that is ultimately revealed near the end of the film. Carlo's astonishing soprano voice (a digitized composition of the voices of Derek Lee Ragin and Ewa Mallas Godlewska) eventually makes him and his brother who composes mediocre operatic scores for Carlo to perform, a phenomenal success. Carlo relinquishes his born name with his professional name Farinelli. Although Carlo suspects that his brother had something to do with his childhood emasculation, he continues to perform his brothers badly written operas. Both brothers are aware that Carlo's superior talent is being undermined by performing Riccardo's operas.

An ill-fated meeting with Maestro George Frederick Handel (Jeroen Krabbé), who desired a contract with Carlo, begins a contentious battle between the two for the lion's share of audience. Carlo turns down Maestro Handel's offer is hired to perform in a London theater to draw audiences away from Handel's operas. Farinelli performs wonderfully and eventually takes virtually all of the audience away from Handel. Carlo's looks, fantastic voice, and range make female audience members faint dead away. One woman tells Carlo that he is responsible for her first musical orgasm! A pact between brothers where women are concerned creates titillating ménage a trios scenes which earned the film its R rating. Carlo soon realizes that performing Handel's operas are so desirable to him that he tries to convince Handel to take him in. The rest of the story reveals the tragic secret that Carlo has always known but in the end brings brothers together for one more ménage a trios that would leave Carlo to become a father; the one gift that was taken away from him as a child. I really enjoyed this film and the music that accompanied it. I commend the director for his efforts to take a difficult subject matter and turn it into a story that is both entertaining and titillating at times. However, the early-on innuendo that Riccardo was somehow responsible for Carlo's difficult life took away the endings potential climax that could have left the audience hanging. --Lewis Saettel 2007
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A piece of Art
shahrad14 December 2001
Wow, What a magnificent movie Farinelli is. Don't miss it. It's really a piece of art. I was amazed by the dazzling scenes of this film. Beauty is all this movie is about. It's full of great, amazing and magnificent scenes including a great love making scene which in my opinion is one of the great sex scenes in movie history. It's absolutely great. If you love movies and haven't seen it yet don't hesitate.
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More about the sex than the voice.
DukeEman12 February 2003
The bawdy adventures of Carlo Broschi, the man with the magic voice and no testicles. But his brother Riccardo steps into the role of carrying out the sexual duties, filling women with what Carlo cannot offer! Interesting account of the great opera singer and his life in turmoil.
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It's good, but it's not perfect.
filipemanuelneto29 January 2020
Carlo Broschi, known as Farinelli, was one of the most notable opera singers of his time, the golden age of baroque opera. He became the highest paid artist in the world. This film explores his life, his artistic career, the difficult relationship he maintained with the composers of the operas he sang (particularly Handel) and his problematic relationship with his brother, the composer Ricardo Broschi.

Well, what can we say? The film is good, but there are problems here. It has a good story, full of drama and moral and ethical issues of various kinds, but it is not captivating nor does it tie us to the film, and much of what is told is invention. For us today, the simple idea of men being castrated to sing in choirs and operas is controversial and the film explores this by showing the sexual difficulties of the protagonist, who shares his lovers with his manly brother. There are still dubious moments: who was that man who, early in the film, committed suicide naked? How, when and by whom was young Carlo castrated (the film suggests a theory but honestly I felt that even the script did not give it credit)?

The actors do a satisfactory job, but far from brilliant. Stefano Dionisi is a convincing Farinelli and had a good relationship with Enrico Lo Verso, who gave life to his brother Ricardo. The fights between them are some of the most dramatic and intense scenes in the film. Jereon Knabbe also shone like Handel, and I enjoyed hearing him speak the various languages that the great composer probably dominated (Italian, French, English, German).

Technically, the film satisfies. It is visually magnificent thanks to the pompous and exaggerated Baroque style. The sets and costumes are historically rigorous and pleasant to look at. The soundtrack is loaded with very famous Baroque tunes like "Lascia ch'io Pianga", from Handel's opera "Rinaldo" and many others, and that was a safe and sure bet by Gerard Corbiau. A single mistake: in more than a moment, the bad synchrony of sound and video made it evident that the songs were not from the main character but from a recording.
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